One politician’s misinformed attempt to promote a confusing non-issue in Australia’s Marriage Equality survey has backfired. A prominent comedian noticed the blunder and turned Senator Bernadi’s divisive tweet into a huge success for a group of Aussie kids trying to raise money to educate girls in Africa.
Craigburn Primary School hoped to raise $900, but the backlash against Senator Bernadi has resulted in a huge influx of donations from the public, totalling a whopping $258,905 (at the time of publication).
Let this be a lesson though.
In this era of “fake news” and “alternate facts”, when even political leaders are making fools of themselves by failing to check facts, it’s up to us ordinary people to learn to see propaganda for what it is.
It’s a low blow when politicians and others, without objective and rational arguments, appeal to parental emotions to sway adults’ perceptions away from truth – yet “think of the kids” is all over the internet right now. In this case, the fundraiser’s CEO said “We’ve been running this campaign for six years — so it’s not intended as any comment on what’s going on in Australia right now.”
Confusion is rife in Australia, about so many things, and it probably always has been. Until recently, many of us would elect politicians the way we support our footy teams: Pick a side and loyally support it, no matter what. We didn’t know that the history we learned in school was manifestly inadequate, and until now we were not empowered by access to information that could so easily unravel lies, omissions and mistakes.
whether it gave Indigenous people the right to vote in federal elections,
whether it gave Indigenous people the right to Australian citizenship…, and
whether, up until the referendum, Indigenous people were classed as fauna.
Fifty years on, and Australians have again been asked to express its opinion about equality of civil rights, and yet again the simple question is being hidden in an ocean of propaganda.
You would think that, in this era of constant connectedness to mainstream and social media, we would all be more informed about the core issue. But information overload may be as problematic as information shortage, because the challenge now is ‘how to stay on point?‘
Everybody expected things to get ugly when Australia’s Turnbull government announced that it would not reverse the discrimination introduced into the Marriage Act by a previous leader of the same party: That it would instead open the issue of #MarriageEquality to public debate by spending at least $122 million taxpayer dollars on a postal survey, which would not even be binding.
The government then namby-pambied about whether it would introduce ‘temporary’ anti-vilification laws to protect people, and the ‘debate’, during the survey process. And that delay is just one of the many, many failures of the process.
But the biggest failure is that the sole question put to the people has been obfuscated beyond recognition. Conservative politicians are using their media platforms to deliberately confuse the public, leveraging their positions as leaders of their electorates, even in defiance of the views of the electorates they represent. There is a shitstorm in mainstream media and social media alike, and people are suffering; divided by a Lord Of The Flies type frenzy that is so opposite to every Fair Go and Mateship principle that Australia stands for.
But while Prime Minister Turnbull sits back with his popcorn, other Aussies are stepping up to improve availability of counselling for those whose risk of mental health problems is increased by this amplified marginalisation, and at least one law firm is offering free services to those who are vilified during the campaign.
And, amid the storm, we also see reminders that there are those who remember the point:
- It’s not about approving of homosexuality (which is already legal), and
- it’s not about religion (because all marriages, religious and atheist, are official due to a legal document; not a church one).
It’s about all citizens being equal under the law. That’s all.
Yes, I will return to add more references to this piece at some stage in future. Right now I’m too mad that any citizen of our country is excluded from equal civil rights, and I’d prefer instead to think about the Good that people have helped Craigburn Primary School achieve.
If you would like to read more about the School’s fundraiser activity, and/or add to that achievement, please visit the School’s fundraiser page.